Products seldom operate in isolation. Consider digital hubs, for instance. People utilize devices such as streaming sticks and smart speakers to simplify their daily routines, expecting these products to integrate effortlessly into their lives.

To ensure products integrate well across ecosystems and meet user expectations, manufacturers should consider some basic questions: Does the device function as intended in its expected environment? If a feature doesn’t work, can a user easily identify the issue? And overall, how easy is it for users to resolve their problems with the product?

Here, I’ll outline key considerations for manufacturers when responding to these questions, both for individual products and for how these products function within broader ecosystems. For more resources and expert guidance, visit Linkup Studio.

UX design

Foster UX That Mirrors Real-World Usage

For instance, troubleshooting a smart speaker provides an example of navigating a complex ecosystem experience for users.

Here’s the process: A manufacturer produces a piece of hardware, such as a smart speaker. Then, third-party developers build applications that work with this hardware, utilizing features like the speaker’s voice-assistant technology. These applications enable users to stream music, order food, or control other smart home devices through the speaker. This integration turns the hardware into a central hub for the home.

The effectiveness of these hubs relies on the flawless integration of various third-party apps. Therefore, when troubleshooting becomes necessary, ensuring the process is as straightforward and hassle-free as possible is crucial.

Consider a scenario where a user struggles to play music from a new streaming service on their smart speaker. The manufacturer of the smart speaker handles the voice integration on the device, but the speaker—and the voice commands that control it—also need to work with the third-party streaming service’s developer. Additionally, the user creates and manages playlists on their phone, which are made by a different manufacturer, adding another layer of complexity.

To tackle these challenges, conducting qualitative UX research can help identify the mental models users develop for these systems. Specifically, for troubleshooting, one practical research area could be understanding how users navigate to a help menu. Consider:

  • Where do users typically search for help and what motivates their choice?
  • Are the help options accessible to all users?
  • Are the help options straightforward to find once users get there?
  • What form of help do users anticipate (interactive demos, videos, text-based FAQs, etc.)?

These questions are just a few examples that might be helpful when figuring out how to troubleshoot a product within a larger ecosystem. The key point is that this type of thinking can simplify the process of supporting your users throughout the life of the product.

Menus should be placed in positions that align with users’ expectations, such as a top menu bar or as interactive elements near important features, making them easy to find. Additionally, it’s crucial that users clearly understand how to use both physical and digital tools—such as buttons, voice commands, or clickable links—that allow them to access support menus. For a deeper understanding of refining these elements within your product design process, explore more here:

Improve Back-End Operations

The experience of end users is crucial. To support this, manufacturers must also effectively manage their interactions with the product’s back end during its development and maintenance. This involves considering how your teams handle and experience updates and ongoing management of the product.

Suppose you’re developing a smart-home hub that works with various smart home devices like thermostats, doorbells, and indoor/outdoor lighting. During extended vacations, users might want to automate actions, such as activating indoor lights when outdoor lights respond to motion sensors, or turning on all lights for a set period when the smart doorbell senses motion. Users might also wish to keep indoor temperature and humidity consistent, regardless of changes in outdoor conditions.

Clearly defining workflows for back-end processes, such as determining whether the hardware or software team is responsible for correcting bugs in voice commands that control music playback on the speaker can reduce the difficulties users might face when setting up or using your product.

UX research enables manufacturers to identify use cases that truly reflect users’ needs. It also helps determine the most efficient ways to meet these needs smoothly. This information can then guide development and integration priorities for the business and individual teams. For more insights on selecting the right UX designer for these tasks, check out this article:


Adopt a Data-Driven Strategy for Product Updates

IoT devices produce and gather large quantities of user data. However, the usefulness of this data is entirely contingent on how manufacturers decide to utilize it.

For example, home hubs collect detailed data on user behavior, such as recording times when users manually command their smart speaker to play music through voice or physical interaction, versus when they set it to play automatically.

By adopting a mixed-methods UX research approach that combines quantitative analysis with qualitative insights to uncover the reasons behind behaviors, you can identify trends between users who use voice commands to play music and those who don’t. With this information, researchers can develop specific user personas, such as those who commonly use voice commands and those who favor other methods, like physical buttons.

These personas can form the basis for future qualitative research, allowing UX teams to delve deeper into the needs and motivations of each group. The results of this research can then be examined, and recommendations can be made to meet the unmet needs or resolve the issues identified for each user persona.

Finally, utilize data to evaluate how the update influences user behavior, decide the most effective way to promote the update within the app, and ultimately determine the success of the update.

UX research is crucial for developing successful products, which is why it demands ongoing focus. Continuously refining a product’s design based on user feedback and behavioral data provides crucial insights into how well the product meets user needs and what additional adjustments could improve the user experience.

In ideal situations, this feedback is actively sought and then utilized for each product update, allowing your team to develop a product that evolves and consistently meets the needs of its users.